Adam Lind smacks grand slam to spark five-run first inning, adds solo homer as Mariners slow down Texas.
In terms of what was expected and what was returned, Adam Lind’s 2016 season with the Mariners — likely his only one — never reached quite what was hoped for when he was acquired in the offseason.
General manager Jerry Dipoto traded a pair of low-level minor-leaguers to the Brewers for Lind in hopes of providing high-level production as part of a platoon at first base.
That didn’t really happen consistently throughout the season. But on Wednesday night, he offered another glimpse of what might have been. Lind belted a pair of homers off Rangers starter A.J. Griffin, including a first-inning grand slam, to lead Seattle to an 8-3 win at Safeco Field
The Mariners improved to 71-68, giving their fading postseason hopes a hint of a pulse as they moved to five games back in the American League wild-card standings. Wins against Texas haven’t come easy for Seattle. It was just the Mariners’ sixth win in 18 games against the Rangers this season.
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“Nice ballgame,” manager Scott Servais said. “We came out with a good approach at the plate.”
Facing a right-handed starting pitcher in a refreshing change, the Mariners jumped on Griffin immediately.
Unlikely leadoff hitter Seth Smith doubled to start the game — his first of four times to reach base — and scored on Ketel Marte’s single to right. The Mariners then loaded the bases with one out for Lind.
Starting at first base for just the third time in 11 games, Lind showed no signs of rust. He got on top of a chest-high 89 mph fastball from Griffin, swatting it into the seats in center field for his 19th homer of the season and fourth career grand slam.
“I had a plan and it didn’t really go to plan,” he said. “I was just kind of waiting for something soft. I just got the barrel there. I hit it right on the sweet spot, so I knew I would at least get a sac fly.”
Unlike past games where they actually had leads, the Mariners continued to build on the 5-0 margin in subsequent innings. They added another run in the second on a sacrifice fly from Nelson Cruz after loading the bases on three straight one-out walks.
Lind’s second at-bat came in the third inning, again he got another 89 mph fastball up in the strike zone and still was able to handle it with ease, driving the pitch over the wall in left field to give him 20 homers and 57 RBI on the season.
“Jump on Lindo’s back,” Servais said. “He has the ability to do that once in a while — drive in a few runs and hit some balls out of the ballpark.”
The 20 homers equaled the number Lind hit last year with the Brewers. But he also hit .277 with a .360 on-base percentage, 32 doubles, 66 walks and 87 RBI a year ago. This season, he’s hitting .231 with a .272 on-base percentage and has just 14 doubles, 18 walks and 57 RBI to go with the 20 homers. There were tantalizing hints of Lind’s production capabilities. But hints never became sustained periods.
“He has the ability to do that,” Servais said. “We’ve seen it in patches throughout the course of the year. He just hasn’t put together a normal Adam Lind year. You look up, he’s still got 20 homers and some games like this where he can carry you, but it just hasn’t been that consistent.”
Inconsistent playing time because of stretches of left-handed starting pitching didn’t help him find a rhythm. Of the Mariners’ 139 games this season, they’ve faced 54 left-handed starters, many coming in the AL West and multiple times in a series. Lind wouldn’t use it as an excuse.
“This is definitely the division with the most lefties,” he said. “I played in the NL Central last year and it was a predominantly right-handed pitching division. That’s just how it goes.”
It’s less than ideal for Lind, who will be a free agent after the season.
“My No. 1 goal every year is not to go on the DL,” he said. “There’s value in being able to put you in the lineup. I’m proud of myself. I’ve had some trying times. But with so many lefties, other than batting average, I think it’s been OK. April was rough and May, but I’ve hung in there and continued to battle. You can look at it as successful and there’s still time left.”